February 6, 2023

Two Poems and Commentary

by Suzanne S. Rancourt

The Smell of Blood

there is old plum blood clumped like grapes becoming raisins
dry and cracked on the edges, crystallizing like nano birdshot.

there is fresh blood vibrant as lips wearing lipstick
for the first time red with life and air
and knowing nothing but that moment in the gasping for more.

there is the in between blood that grows sticky with flies
like fruit juice spilt on clean linoleum that no one wants to talk about

as it has already been spilt and cleaning up the mess implies our guilt
so we sip quietly with downcast eyes onto table tops in outdoor cafes

or our mother’s favorite butcher block and we pray
that dogs enter soon to lick up taboos now sticky with truth.

there is the pink frothy blood that effervesces into mist
alive with the last kiai – last words, last breath, last action,
beyond form and recognition.

there is the blood we suck from a paper cut, bright as words
we sliced with time. never
is blood alone but mingled with bitter gall, and bile, or the rank of gut
and brains.

there is the blood of unborn fetuses in glass vacuums
and plastic measuring cups in deep sinks
power washing the rot of vaginal infections

and there is the blood of life tainted with umbilical mater –
amniotic fluids, saline and protein enhanced with sweat
cannaling through mergences, cavernous, cold, Sally – Port pelvises.

there is the blood of death spattered with the last shit you’ll ever take
and no one cares what your last meal was
but you and whoever made it.
Tabasco pizza, chocolate chip cookies melted into blobs from heat
while being shipped from runway to runway,
or sitting in back postal rooms in mail bags.

there is the blood of transfusions, transformations, transportation
into Warfarin, Heparin, and morphine drips.

there is the blood of lies,
the blood of truth
the blood of consequences, conflicts, confusion that titrate
into the soil and dust of everyday living – the absence felt
when mowing the lawn
getting the mail
feeding the dog.

there is the blood of abstraction, nightmares, invaders
of songs, stories, horror metered by heart palpitations
tightening of chest and the constant neurotic obsessive unlocking
re-locking of doors, windows – load, fire, re-load.

there is the blood of love
that dries too quickly into a cacophony of smells that embrace
something someone somewhere describes as life.

I smell you on flesh, in bathroom stalls, laundry baskets,
garbage cans, drain traps, band aids in locker rooms,
knee patches stiff with iron.

I smell you on the streets in the lives outside of reasoning.

How Much Guilt?

Gold highlights in her hair beckon like the heart of Buddha.
A star – ancestral – pierced with suffering bled into a living tree
our only hope to ascend – go home – enter into, onto, a path of service.

The gold highlights flicker as tongues of flame as eyes in darkness
refract a search light bent on scanning for validation
that someone, something, is out “there” a mirror of intent and action
taking chances
only to confirm, the human ogre, the tempestic predator, lacks soul.

Why do we continue
to search
the hearts
to bring home
our kind?

Leave no soldier behind
How long
do we search?
As long as it takes.

Armistice Day v Veterans Day Thoughts

How do we find peace in the midst of political whirlwinds? Where is the justice of civil context in conflict? Words often fall short in the oppression of awareness. Peace, I keep thinking, is a moment the length of time it takes to sign a document. Or the realization that I’m going home. Then what? Where do I find peace then?

This morning, in my back yard, I gave thanks for life and all the profound blessings and miracles of my life because, in hindsight, there have been numerous precariously close calls. How do I continue knowing there are so many Veteran brothers and sisters, so many still engaged in their military service, sacrificing their lives and innocence sparing the majority of society from those actions? Where is the peace in this?

I am old enough to remember the Vietnam War well. I was young enough to have served my last enlistment from ’05-’08. We are still human beings and the act of War impacts us the same through time. The spirit to protect bathes in a moment of peace between actions the same way then as now. Armistice, perhaps, is a pause; a deliberate moment to stop action and recollect, to assess, ask the hard questions, seek the even more complex and difficult answers. Armistice, is an opportunity for a civilian society to listen and receive the wisdom garnered by our Veterans of War.

In ancient cultures, and current Indigenous cultures, the returning home is a Ceremony of cleansing through ritual, stories recounting actions, expressions of grief, a re-connecting with humanness and the healing of one’s Soul without judgement. Moral Injury requires, asks of others, to listen without judgement to the experiences that induce harm to the Spirit. As a wise therapist once said, “Either decision was difficult beyond measure.”

Armistice Day is a day to listen without judgement to the wisdom from those who have experienced the complexities of War and life after War. The Soul of each participant of War and War Trauma creates a collective consciousness within our society. We are all a part of this great unspeakable “thing,” War, that asks of us to shoulder some of the burden that our brother and sister Veterans (and their families) carry, and have carried, for eons.

We are all a part of this breath of living society and the Armistice between inhale and exhale.


In accepting Suzanne’s commentary on Armistice Day, I wrote:
“I should mention that I don’t agree with your assessment that Armistice is for listening to or reflecting on the voices of veterans.  I don’t believe it’s exclusive.  As I interpret it, Armistice Day was to commemorate peace, from any voice.  But I am pleased to accept your commentary, because we want this exchange of ideas to offer a diversity of interpretations. The more there is to read/hear, the more to think about.  So thank you for your contribution.” (RL)

Suzanne’s  response:
“Thank you for your honest response. I am in agreement that Armistice Day was/is a way to commemorate peace from any voice.  What I have been noticing in my travels, however, (especially from younger Vets) is something that reminds me of what occurred to Vietnam Vets. Without sincere non-judgmental, listening and hearing our veterans, this type of non-supportive scenario can lead to further isolation and suicidal ideation. This compounds the already multi-faceted moral injury issues.

Something I continue to hear from fellow Veterans is the hesitancy and fear to even begin to share experiences and/or emotions pertaining to one’s traumatic experiences, which is not to exclude that which we have witnessed.

So, thank you for sharing your perspective, because I do agree that Armistice is inclusive.  My commentary was to further highlight the need to listen/hear without judgement; to use Armistice Day as that pause where we can consider, without judgement

1. what is our part in this dynamic, and
2. what is the impact on the Soul of our society?

A peaceful pause can allow space to have the conversations, revelations, enlightenments of understanding that are integral to peace itself.